By Eric Horn
Growing up a few hours from New York City, I always equated Oysters with Long Island. But after I attended the Taste of Virginia Event in NYC, I had to change my thinking — Virginia is actually known as the oyster capital of the East Coast. In addition to a plentiful variety of Chesapeake Bay and Atlantic oysters; the event, which was a showcase of Virginia’s craft food and drink industry had a wonderful array of beer, wine, gourmet dishes and harder alcohol.
Before I get back to the oysters, I want to put a disclaimer that I do not profess to by an expert in shellfish cuisine, even though I absolutely love them. I’m used to getting Oysters in New York that are by different because of their size and consistency as much as their sweetness and saltiness; the Virginia oysters seem to be different mostly by their taste in terms of saltiness, creaminess and sweetness. The variations in texture seem a lot more subtle. They really had a great taste and were delicious with or without sauces.
The vineyards also produced some delicious bottles of wine. It was interesting that the vintners oftentimes were actual neighbors with the food producers at the same tables. So one of the bottles of wine (which had a minerally taste) offered along with oysters was also used in the cheese making process from Caromont Farm (the minerally taste of the wine flavored the cheese nicely). The cheese from Caromount was exquisite – the aroma drew me from a few feet away and the taste was equally heavenly.
I was really taken by Border Springs Lamb (lamb dish) and the Virginia Mackerel & Blue Crab – HT buttermilk, Virginia peanuts, summer herbs with lime dish by Harper’s Table.
I lined up for seconds on both of those. The most startlingly good dish came from Comfort/Pasture. It was a Smoked VA Trout with Acorn Crackers, Bread and Butter Cured and Deviled Egg Yolk, Sumac, and Pickled Apples. It tasted like the woods (but in a great way). The wafer on its own would make a nice stand alone snack.
My favorite beer was the Hardy Wood Gingerbread Stout. It was rich and sweet, just delicious. The mixed drink made of Catoctin’s Roundstone Rye was so smooth, that it was dangerous. Surprisingly the Belle Isle moonshine also went down nicely. But it definitely did not sneak up on me. I think it was a matter of seconds before I lost all feeling in my legs and floated out of there.
Thank you to Taste of Virginia for inviting me to sample why Virginia should be a destination to be visited.